A Mosh Pit Full of Fist Pumps Episode II

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2015 was such a whirlwind. A blur. A ride. An adventure. A spectacle. A blast. A rollercoaster. A peanut.

Crap, I lost it. Let’s just say, a lot of stuff happened.

In many ways it felt like I was wandering aimlessly on this new writing path. Last I wrote about it, I oh so dramatically outlined my reasons for peace-ing out on journalism (On a scale of 1-10 in breakups, I’d give it a 55. Necessary, sure, but awful as fuck. I enjoyed writing for newspapers for a time but didn’t quite have the temperament for the daily 300-word regurgitation of things you can Google elsewhere. Even as a reader, I much prefer longer narratives and pieces that take months and months to write. But I’d do it all over again, layoff and financial destitution and all. It was like being in a time capsule—a writing bootcamp that future generations won’t get to experience. Suck it, babies).

Unlike the well-worn and fading path of daily newspapering, this new one is much more nebulous.

And in 2015, it showed.

I was all over the place.

Chronologically,

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JAN:

I left a contract job in NYC so I could intern at a cool ad agency in Minneapolis for a couple months. Steeped in great copywriting tradition, this place was like rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of the greats and the rockstars of the current. I also got to see what an agency’s like when it debuts an ad baby on the night of the Holy Grail of admaking—the Super Bowl.

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MARCH:

I got back to New York, probably more unsure than ever of where to go next. Instead of immediately lining up an ad gig, I decided to use my savings to hole up and start drawing. And I kept drawing (more on that later).

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JUNE:

With a couple dozen comic strips under my belt and a revamped portfolio incorporating my doodles, it was time to look for another gig. I soon was faced with two choices: a stable position in Manhattan calling for a very specific skillset or a contract one in Jersey calling for anything and everything that was 1.5 hours by train and train and bus. I took the one in Jersey.

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SEPT:

Franco and I moved into our own space. One word: liberating. Hence, this current spate of posts.

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OCT:

When summer ended, so did the Jersey gig. Days into yet another stretch of holing up and drawing, I got a call for a monthlong project in Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh, by the way, is an awesome town. In another lifetime in another universe, I would have loved it.)

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NOV/DEC:

Back in NYC, I closed out the year with another contract job in Manhattan. Because. Bookends.

***

Looking back now, I see there was one constant: experimentation.

Different ads and clients and cities and agencies and people—I wanted to try them all.

All throughout, I still wrote side projects for myself. Not in this space, because for a while I felt like everything I wanted to share didn’t belong here. They were meant to be short stories, maybe, or diary comics, or shitty tumblr posts or some other form I don’t really know yet.

I’ve grown more patient with them.

2015 made my writing goals much clearer. I’d share what they are but this space is much better in hindsight.

Because

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But I can speak in generalities.

I’ve found that to grow as a writer, you  have to grow as a human. That may include admitting things about yourself you may not like, purging a lot of things that are bad for you, and not being afraid of the changes you need to make to get to where you want to be. Just like anything in life, things may be crap for a while but time has a way of ironing things out.

I’ve found that just because you’re growing in a certain direction doesn’t mean the people you know are going to go with you. And that’s OK. Some people are right for us in spurts, not eternity.

In the same vein, pursuing your own path, especially one that doesn’t quite jibe with the status quo, can be quite lonely. It’s why surrounding yourself with awesome people isn’t just important—it’s pretty damn necessary. And because forging real bonds takes a lot of time and energy, we must be very cognizant of who we give that time and energy to.

Finally, #LIVINGTHEDREAM can change as you change. This time 10 years ago, I was a senior journalism major gearing up for a summer internship at a daily newspaper; was editing the college paper and would soon be running it by fall; and leaving it all behind by spring to live in Spain for a couple months. Shit. I was way cooler 10 years ago.

And that’s OK.

Because I didn’t know then what I know now.

That is, #LIVINGTHEDREAM may at times look a lot like wandering aimlessly, making questionable career moves, waking up in the middle of the night going: What the fuck am I doing? It’s talking to people about your dreams about writing and being flat out told: HA. So you want to be a writer? Not if you don’t write in a certain manner at this kind of place, slaving away every night and weekend FOR ALL OF ETERNITY you won’t!

In spite of it all, no, in the face of it all, you keep writing. Not just writing, mind you, but writing in the kind of way that excites you and sounds like you.

Because weirdly enough, this nonlinear path actually gets you much closer to #LIVINGTHEDREAM than the one that came with all the cool, fancy titles.

In my old writing life, I put my work with the capital W ahead of everything. That was necessary for that point in my life, but now… fuck. That. I’m convinced my best writing self comes from being the best human me.

Which means being in the city I love.

With the people I love.

To do the kind of writing I love.

It took a while to get here, but man am I glad I did.

Happy New Year, friends.

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A mosh pit full of fist pumps

So much has happened since I last wrote.

Let’s see. I quit my job. I moved back to Richmond. Which means I left New York and all its wonderful wonderfulness — something that still hasn’t quite sunk in. It is possible any moment now I will wake up in my too-small room with its too-big desk, the light barely peeking in from behind the too-long curtain just above the too-loud air conditioner.

Which might be entirely plausible were it not for photographic evidence that I somehow packed up my New York existence in this many boxes and that many trash bags.

But wait, you say. Didn’t you promise us getting started things a mere eight or so weeks ago, just before you unceremoniously implemented radio silence? How utterly, utterly rude of you.

Well, observant reader. Like I’ve said many times before, given my tendency to disappear without warning (I mean, who plans disappearances anyway? Would a kidnappee leave a note to say, “Hey guys. Don’t expect me home today. I gots evil things waiting for me”? Would my left sock tickle my sole ever so softly, knowing full well it would soon take up permanent residence in the crevices between the washer and dryer?), I am never truly gone. For there is Twitter. And Tumblr. And, to a lesser extent, Instagram. I am everpresent. And omniscient. And totally full of crap.

But there was good reason. The very next day after I posted my last entry, this happened.

This, after months of reading and preparing (That epic novel? Grad school application.) and contemplating my existence and purpose and non-purpose in life, was the day I got accepted to this place.

This place can only be best described as one part ad agency, one part rogue M.B.A. program, and one part laboratory for experiments in 21st-century branding.

If you’re patting me on the back for that lovely description, don’t. I didn’t write it. This guy did.

So, there I was, sitting back down at my desk about to write me some legal copy after a run-of-the-mill trip to the bathroom, when I got the email. I’d been waiting for this thing for months. My reaction, of course, was nothing short of extreme euphoria masked as a perfectly composed journalist with Really Important Things To Write. Inside, however, was an all out mosh pit full of fist pumps as I fully accepted my transition to the dark side.

But wait, you say. Advertising? Wasn’t journalism what you’d been working toward since you started writing when you were, like, 8?

This is true, curious reader. It had been my dream to be a journalist in New York City — a dream only solidified by the Muppet Babies’ foray into investigative deeds using an old school typewriter. All I can tell you, without diving into a diatribe about the failings of modern journalism, my preference for big picture analyses over knee-jerk regurgitations, and my conflicting impulses to express myself creatively without defying journalistic objectivity, is that, well, I was ready for something else.

So, in five weeks, I left everything. And in those five weeks, my brain was unable, and is actually just now finally able to string together coherent sentences, to process the sheer absurdity, suddenness, awesomeness, sadness, gravity, and excitement of it all. I could not even read on the fucking train. And aren’t you happy I can say fucking now? All those years I was holding back because I wanted to be absolutely professional, given the reserved confines of education and law, when sometimes all I really wanted to use in place of a multisyllabic word was a four-letter one.

All in all, I just felt that striving for objectivity ended up suppressing a great part of what makes a writer a writer — at least the kind of writer I’ve always wanted to be.

While I can write about this now semi-succinctly, I can tell you it was not easy. It was actually kind of painful. It took months and months of reconciling with the fact that I was leaving a big part of myself so I could move forward. There’s so much more to tell, of course. There were many players and layers, many, many agonizing internal monologues. I can’t quite divulge everything right here in this instant, because I’m still getting used to this paradoxical writerly existence. That is, that writers, often among the most introverted, cannot truly write without revealing their innermost selves. It is at once terrifying and liberating.

Maybe it will all end up in a book. Maybe it will become an essay. Or maybe it will become the narrative to a really melodramatic commercial. For now, though, this is me. It’s probably a different me from the one you thought you’d come to know. Maybe it’s someone you really, truly like or no longer like or like right now but ultimately will dislike.

Whatever it is, this is me. And admitting that is a great first step to whichever direction I’m headed.

Bagnapper’s delight

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5 o'clock shadow. Chicago.

Just in case you were mystified by my lack of updates, let me direct you to my Twitter.

Long story long, I’ve been a tad preoccupied with a major research project at work, on top of being gone for nearly three weeks for Thanksgiving and meetings in Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and San Francisco again – in that order.

I just got back last night and have quite a few pictures to post. Much of them I’ve already tweeted (giving you non-Tweeters the side eye yet again). I’ll try to post the rest, stories attached, over Christmas break (Yes, I’m referring to it like I’m still in college).

For now, here are some highlights:

This experience aside, Torontonians are lovely. I’m told there’s this thing on the CN Tower called the Edge Walk, in which you’re suspended above the cityscape with nothing between you and the hard, hard concrete but a flimsy-looking cord. It’s only open in the warm months, and I’ve been invited to do it should I return in the summer.

I think I’ll pass.

Chicago is an awesome city.  This place is delicious, and the aquarium was fun. Jellies are always my favorite, because ain’t no party like a cnidarian party.

For my first stint in San Francisco, I stayed in the Tenderloin — a result of coming into the research process quite late and having limited time to book and schedule meetings. Upon dropping me off, my cab driver asked why the heck I was staying there. He also answered my questions of “Am I going to die?” with things like: You’ll be fine. Pause. If anyone comes up to you, just walk away. Pause.

Cab peels away the second I close the door and I’m left standing there with my luggage, a lone tumbleweed rolling by.

Silicon Valley is a neat, smart town. Lots of tech companies and charming downtown strips. There, I saw the Apple Store Steve Jobs frequented, Stanford in all its splendor, and the mighty HP shed where it all began.

I was almost the victim of The Great Bagnapping Disaster. Granted, half of it was my fault for not paying close attention to the carousel (My name is Karen, and I’m a Tweetaholic). But that had never happened before, even when I used a very generic black suitcase, so I figured: Why now?

Sure enough, I looked up from my phone long enough to realize I was the last one standing at baggage claim while a sole red suitcase that kind of but not really resembled mine rolled past.

I lifted the noticeably empty suitcase and checked the tag: Blank.

It was time to panic. I debated between running to SFO airport security and fruitlessly filling out paperwork or hunting down the bagnapper.

I decided to go a-hunting.

Potential Bagnapper #1 was a girl in her late teens or early 20s. I could tell she was creeped out by the little Asian girl chasing her down. “Excuse me?” I said. She walked faster. “Excuse me?” She stopped once she realized her ride hadn’t arrived yet. She was cornered.

Me: Hi, I can’t find my suitcase, and I just wanted to check if (looks down to see her identical red suitcase has a big black tag on the handle. Internal monologue: “Crap. That’s not mine. Or is it? She could have just added it really fast. But it looks like it’s kind of hard to add and remove quickly. Or maybe –“) you might have taken my suitcase by mistake.

Her, not amused: It’s mine.

Me: Yeah, I just noticed the tag. Well, thanks anyway; I wonder where mine went.

Her, still not amused: Well, this is mine.

I walk away, muttering expletives.

Potential Bagnapper #2. Mom standing by the curb waiting for pickup. She’s with some kids, possibly hers, and totally not the bagnapping sort. I approach anyway.

Me: Hi, did you just fly in from Chicago? (Looks down at suitcase. No unidentified tag to be found, and it appears as plump as mine).

Her, friendly: Yes.

Me: Well, my suitcase looks just like that, and I was wondering if it might be mine. Can I just see the tag?

Her: …

Me, not waiting for a response, already looking at the tag tucked into the backpocket: It’s mine.

Her: Oh my God! I’m so sorry. Here you go. We just bought a new red suitcase just like this.

Me: It’s on the carousel. I’m just glad you’re still here.

Her: I’m so sorry!

I run to catch a cab, aneurysm averted.

Now, I tend to be discerning of people and their intentions, and she very well could have been a tired mom. Except for one big discrepancy: The suitcase on the carousel was empty. Mine was nearly 50 pounds. There was absolutely no way she could have mistaken mine for hers unless she happened to possess Buffy-like strength with the inability to gauge weight.

Somehow, I doubt that.

Final Score —

Me: 1

Attempted Bagnapper: 0

The Undead: Eternity